Forecasting sales using deep neural networks

© 2022 EPFL

© 2022 EPFL

PhD student Yara Kayyali Elalem and Prof. Ralf Seifert have published a new article in the International Journal of Forecasting entitled "A machine learning-based framework for forecasting sales of new products with short life cycles using deep neural networks".


Demand forecasting is becoming increasingly important as firms launch new products with short life cycles more frequently. This paper provides a framework based on state-of-the-art techniques that enables firms to use quantitative methods to forecast sales of newly launched, short-lived products that are similar to previous products when there is limited availability of historical sales data for the new product. In addition to exploiting historical data using time-series clustering, we perform data augmentation to generate sufficient sales data and consider two quantitative cluster assignment methods. We apply one traditional statistical (ARIMAX) and three machine learning methods based on deep neural networks (DNNs) – long short-term memory, gated recurrent units, and convolutional neural networks. Using two large data sets, we investigate the forecasting methods’ comparative performance and, for the larger data set, show that clustering generally results in substantially lower forecast errors. Our key empirical finding is that simple ARIMAX considerably outperforms the more advanced DNNs, with mean absolute errors up to 21%–24% lower. However, when adding Gaussian white noise in our robustness analysis, we find that ARIMAX’s performance deteriorates dramatically, whereas the considered DNNs display robust performance. Our results provide insights for practitioners on when to use advanced deep learning methods and when to use traditional methods.


Forecasting, Machine learning, Product life cycle, Analytics, Deep learning